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Carrying the Ball and Their Own Baggage: Marshawn Lynch and LeGarrette Blount

29 Jan

Super Bowl XLIX Will Be A Matchup of Two Complex Running Backs  Who Have Issues with Authority 
By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When Marshawn Lynch has the ball, he can do a lot of damage. He hopes to do that against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. Photo by Webster Ridddick.

When Marshawn Lynch has the ball, he can do a lot of damage. He hopes to do that against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. Photo by Webster Ridddick.

If you’ve had enough of the hot air surrounding the “Deflate-Gate scandal, but still have a taste for the quirky and bizarre of Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale,look no further than Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch and his fellow ball carrier LeGarrette Blount of the New England Patriots.

While Lynch and Blount will be key components in the game plans of their respective teams on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium, a lot of focus has been placed not on their ability to carry the ball, but on the baggage—Lynch’s refusal to talk to the media and Blount’s unceremonious kick to the curb from the Pittsburgh Steelers– they drag with them as they do it.

Not since Dallas Cowboys running Duane Thomas’ gave his famous “What time is it” line to reporters in the buildup to Super Bowl VI in 1972 has a running back’s words made the kind of headlines that Lynch’s “I’m here so I won’t get fined” did.

During the Seahawks Media Day session on Tuesday, Lynch kept repeating that line over and over again during a strange, yet amusing three and a half-minute confab with more than 200 reporters.

According to the NFL Network, Lynch chanted the sentence 29 times. Lynch’s aversion to press availabilities and how it manifests itself has become the stuff of legend.

From the one-liners he delivered during the regular season that cost him $50,000 in fines to the complaints filed by the Pro Football Writers Association for his refusal to talk to reporters during last year’s Super Bowl Media Day, Lynch has figuratively grabbed his crotch when it comes to the League’s mandated press conferences.

And speaking of crotch grabs, the NFL has warned the Seahawks that if Lynch decides to do that after scoring a touchdown, the former Cal star’s antics would cost them 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct each time. It’s already cost Lynch a grand total of $31,050 ($20,000 for doing it during the NFC title game and $11,050 for a regular season game in December.)

Lynch’s Seahawks teammates say that Lynch should be able to handle his media duties his own way, but several prominent members of the media have chided Lynch for not following the league rules and not promoting the game that pays him. That’s a good point.

Oddly enough, Lynch’s Media Day Theatre of the Absurd might have done more to promote the game, something that the NFL probably doesn’t want to admit. No one wants to admit that anti-heroes and knuckleheads make the game as intriguing as the game’s superstars, especially in a year where the League has endured a lot of bad press.

For all his public misbehavior, Lynch’s teammates and coaches benefit from the damage he does on the field when he’s in “Beast Mode.”

During the regular season, he gained 1,306 yards with 13 touchdowns. He also gained 157 yards on 25 carries in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers and scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the four quarter. He’s also a leader in the locker room.

“Obviously, he’s a little different with us than he is out in public, but he’s a great guy,” said Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. “He works hard in the meeting room in the meeting room with those guys (running backs) to help prepare them.” ​​

LeGarrette Blount came up huge for the Patriots in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.  He scored three touchdowns.

LeGarrette Blount came up huge for the Patriots in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. He scored three touchdowns.

But while Lynch’s shenanigans tend to anger Seahawks beat writers, Blount’s angered Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

Blount expected to be a bigger part of the Steelers offense, but with the emergence of Le’Veon Bell, his playing time was reduced. Blount had just 266 yards rushing in 11 games.

A few minutes before the end of the Steelers win over the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 17, Blount decided he had enough of being Bell’s backup and walked off the field before the game was over. By the time the rest of the team got to the locker room, Blount was headed for the team bus.

Twelve hours later, the Steelers gave Blount his walking papers.
Head coach Bill Belichick, remembering how well Blount played for the team in 2013, took him back immediately after he cleared waivers.

While most coaches might have shied away from him because of how his time in Pittsburgh ended, it didn’t matter to him, he said.

“Yeah, I don’t know anything about Pittsburgh, you’d have to ask Pittsburgh about Pittsburgh,” Belichick said. “I think he’s been a good addition to our team, very popular guy in the locker room. He’s good for our team and he’s a good player, so it worked out well.”

Blount has paid dividends. In five games for the Pats in 2014, he gained 281 yards. In the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts, Blount gained 148 yards on 30 carries and scored three touchdowns.

Blount’s return to the Patriots energized his teammates.

“I felt like it was almost like he never left once we got going,” said Patriot running back Shane Vereen.

And in the end, leaving the Steelers was a good thing for him, Blount said.

“Things didn’t work out as planned, so we had to part ways and I ended up here,” he said. “And now I’m about to play in the Super Bowl.”

Belichick has a knack for finding talented players with baggage and Blount is no exception. He was suspended much of his senior year at Oregon for punching a Boise State player after his Ducks lost their 2009 season-opener. In his first training camp with the Steelers, he and, ironically enough, Bell, were arrested on possession of marijuana charges. Blount will be in a Pittsburgh courtroom on Feb. 4, hoping to have those charges dismissed.

Lynch and Blount may have their share of personal issues with authority, but they help their teams win. During Media Day, Blount said Lynch shouldn’t change a thing about himself.

“Whatever he’s doing, I recommend him to keep doing it because he’s been successful in this league at it,” Blount said.

Wilson Overcomes Early Struggles With Fantastic Finish!

19 Jan

“If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too. … If you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds’ worth of distance run…Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and which is more, You’ll be a man, my son.“-Rudyard Kipling.

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Russell Wilson launching his game-winning overtime touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse to send the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl. Photo courtesy of the StarTribune.com

Russell Wilson launching his game-winning overtime touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse to send the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl. Photo courtesy of the StarTribune.com

As the confetti flew all over Seattle’s Century Link Stadium, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had tears of joy streaming down his eyes as his teammates gathered around him. His touchdown pass in overtime had just put his team in the Super Bowl.

Thanks to his game-winning 35-yard touchdown pass to teammate Jermaine Kearse, Wilson pulled off the improbable mother of all comebacks in the NFC Championship with a 28-22 overtime victory over the Green Bay Packers.

“(Wilson) did a remarkable job with the finish of this game,” said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll. “It took so long for the good stuff to happen. It was a long, hard day for him. We were throwing for nothing. I think 10 yards at halftime. It was a crazy game. But with the game on the line, this is what (Wilson) has totally believed would happen and he never thought that it wouldn’t.”

Seattle will head to Super Bowl XLIX take on the New England Patriots at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Pats punched their ticket to the Super Bowl with an easy 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game.

Wilson’s happy tears were perilously close to being somber and sad ones. He had been sacked five times, threw four interceptions including what looked to be a game-clinching pick for the Packers with 5:13 left. But out of the ashes of what was a terrible game for him, Wilson found a way to win.

“It was just staying the course, trusting the protection, trusting the routes, trusting the timing, trusting the preparation, trusting the film study…That’s where I went to, going back to the fundamentals of the game,” Wilson said. “The ball didn’t bounce our way the whole game but it bounced our way at the right time.”

Wilson fought through his mistakes and was great he needed to be, especially in the last 3:52 of regulation and in overtime. What was most impressive was the fearlessness Wilson displayed down the stretch. He wasn’t afraid to make a mistake after four picks and he kept firing until he got it right.

“If we’re going to down, I’m going to go down swinging, that’s for sure,” Wilson said.

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin said Wilson’s performance reflected the heart and resilience of the team.

“Indicative of this team,” Baldwin said. “He never counted himself out. We never counted him out. We always believe in the guy in the next to us no matter what the situation is, no matter what he’s going through. He had a rough first half, we all did.

“But when you make a throw like that in the fourth quarter and when Jermaine (Kearse) comes through, I think he had two drops in the first half and I told him don’t worry about that, you’re going to have your opportunity and he comes and makes that crucial touchdown catch. That’s what this team is made of.”

Not only did Wilson believe in himself, he still had faith in his teammates, especially Kearse. Two of Wilson’s interceptions came off catchable balls that caromed off Kearse’s hands. Wilson never wavered in his belief that Kearse would come through with a big catch.

“Because I’ve seen him make so many plays before,” Wilson said. “That’s the first thing I told Kearse after that last interception. We’re going to win this game and I’m going to keep coming back to you, we’re going to find a way to win the game. …When I found a chance to hit Jermaine one-on-one on that deep post, we went for it and we hit it.”

During those times that Wilson and the offense struggled, it was the defense that kept the Packers from turning the game into a rout in the first half. Green Bay had the ball inside the red zone four times in the first quarter and came away with just one touchdown and three field goals to take a 16-0 lead.

The special teams came up with a pair of huge big plays for the Seahawks and put them in position to win the game. Seattle got their first score of the game in the third quarter on a fake field goal. Punter Jon Ryan threw a 19-yard to pass to tight end turned offensive tackle Garry Gilliam.

After a Wilson touchdown one-yard brought the Seahawks to within 19-14, reserve wide receiver Chris Matthews recovered Steve Hauschka’s onside kick that led to a spectacular 24-yard run by Marshawn Lynch that gave Seattle its first lead of the game.

Speaking of “Beast Mode,” Lynch gained 157 yards on 25 carries and that spectacular run for his touchdown.

After Lynch’s score, Wilson made another improbable play on the two-point conversion when he sprinted to his right and floated a ball up for grabs to his left that was miraculously caught by tight end Luke Willson to give Seattle a 22-19 lead.

That play was important because Green Bay would tie the game and send it into overtime on a 48-yard field by Mason Crosby.

Once the Seahawks won the coin toss, Wilson knew he had the Packers right where he wanted them.

“I told (offensive coordinator) Darrell Bevell on the sideline after that coin toss, I’m going to hit Kearse with a touchdown on a check,” Wilson said.

Asche and Brown Lead Phillies in Rout over Reds, Hamels Gets 100th Win

18 May

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Domonic Brown had a career-high five runs batted in the Phillies win over Cincinnati. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Domonic Brown had a career-high five runs batted in the Phillies win over Cincinnati. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Coming into the second game of their three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds, the Phillies had been scoreless in their last 20 innings.

The real culprit behind the Phillies lack of run production has been their inability to hit with runners in scoring position. Before Saturday night’s contest against the Reds, the Phillies were 0-for-16. They had been batting .193 when they’ve had men in scoring position.

“A lineup creates scoring opportunities and then it comes down to execution and it comes down to a big at bat and a swing to drive one run or maybe two or three,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “That’s the one punch that we want to see and that’s what we need to get us over the hump, to get us going.”

For the first three scoreless innings, the Phillies offense was going nowhere fast until the fourth inning when everything Sandberg talked about came to fruition.

In that fourth inning, the Phillies broke out of their slump with a vengeance. They sent 10 men to the plate and scored six runs on six hits that included a two-run double by third baseman Cody Asche, a two-run homer by left fielder Domonic Brown and RBI singles from Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley.

The offensive outburst, along with a stellar outing by Cole Hamels, enabled the Phillies to come away with a 12-1 win over the Reds at Citizen’s Bank Park to end a four-game losing streak.

The Phillies offense broke out of their hitting with runs in scoring position slump by going 7-for-15. For Sandberg, it was a matter of time before they broke out of their inability to score runs. It was Asche’s two-run double to end the Phillies scoreless streak that opened the flood gates.

“It was big. That’s what we were looking for to build on,” Sandberg said. “We were able to build on that for the rest of the game. It was the hit that sparked everybody.”

As the Phillies offense was rising from its slumber, Hamels was mowing down Reds hitters in a way that was reminiscent of his MVP performance in the 2008 World Series. He struck out 10 while allowing just one run on three hits. He threw 90 pitches in seven innings of work. It was Hamels 100th career win.

“Cole was outstanding for his 100th career win,” Sandberg said. “It was by far the best that he’s looked this year with velocity and command, throwing strikes and using all of his pitches. He had that (third inning) where struck out the side with nine pitches.”

Hamels said he was happy to get that 100th win playing for the Phillies and for Philadelphia fans.

“They’ve seen a quite a few wins here personally (at Citizen’s Bank Park) or on Comcast,” Hamels said. “It’s nice to be able to do it for everybody to feel they’ve been a part of it from the start to where it is now.”
Doing the bulk of the damage for the Phillies were Asche and Brown who changed places in the Phillies lineup. Asche batted sixth and Brown batted seventh.

“It was great to see and maybe that sparked them,” Sandberg said.
Brown, who had been batting .113 (6-for-53) in his last 14 games coming into Saturday, drove in a career-high five runs including his second homer of the year in the fourth and a three-run double in the seventh. He had the green light to swing at a 3-0 pitch that got crushed into the seats in right field in that big fourth innin.

“I knew a fast ball was coming, especially with a guy that’s been struggling,” Brown said. “I was trying to make a good, short sweet to the baseball. I just happen to do so. … It definitely feels good, but it’s just one game, fellas. I’m trying to build forward, stay positive and keep having fun.”

Meanwhile, Asche continued his hot hitting with a double and a single while driving in three runs.

“We’ve been putting pressure on teams and getting runners in scoring position. We just haven’t been able to cash in,” Asche said. “It was good to some runs for Cole because he was out there pitching his ass off. “

After putting up those six runs in the fourth. The Phillies scored five more in the seventh and got a solo home-run from shortstop Cesar Hernandez in the eighth. It was his first career major-league homer.

Notes-With his first inning single, Jimmy Rollins moved into third place on the Phillies all-time hitting list with his 2,212 career hit that moved him past Hall-of-Famer Ed Delahanty. He is five hits shy of tying Richie Ashburn for second.

Eagles Rookie Jordan Matthews Hopes to Make his Own Mark

17 May

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday

PHILADELPHIA—New Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews came into his first rookie minicamp press conference Friday humble and saying all the right things about the work he has ahead of him.

Rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews taking questions from reporters during a rookie camp press conference.   Photo by Chris Murray.

Rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews taking questions from reporters during a rookie camp press conference. Photo by Chris Murray.

Considering how some highly-touted college hotshots have come into the NFL with delusions of grandeur and over-hyped bravado, Matthews is definitely a breath of fresh air, especially when he was asked about dealing with the burden of having to replace former Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure,” said Matthews, the Eagles second-round draft pick. “Like I’ve said, I’m a totally different player than DeSean Jackson. I don’t know where any of those comparisons are coming from. He’s a great player and I wish him all the best in Washington. At the same time, I’ve got to best player that I can be … There’s not pressure for a guy when you’ve got LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and Nick Foles … I just gotta go in there and do my job.”

Okay, that’s fair.

But let’s keep it real here. Eagles fans are expecting. or more accurately, hoping Matthews will have a spectacular enough rookie season to replace Jackson’s 82 catches, 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns from last season. There are still more than a few Birds fans that were upset that the team unloaded Jackson without getting anything in return.

Realistically, it may take a season or two to know what the Eagles really have in the six-foot-three inch, 209-pound Matthews. That said, there’ a lot to like about this kid who seems to have a lot of upside when you look at him on paper and what he did at Vanderbilt.
Matthews is the Southeastern Conference’s all-time leading receiver. During his senior year, Matthews caught 112 passes for 1,477 yard and seven touchdowns. He had five games in which caught 10 or more passes in one of the most physical defensive conferences in the nation.
“I think here saw more man coverage than a lot of other guys. Because I think in that conference, the defensive backs match up,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “The one thing he does is catch the ball in traffic. He made an unbelievable amount of contested catches. You know, he’s got such a wing span and will go up and get it, and can play both inside and outside.”
I saw Matthews in Vanderbilt’s season-opener against Mississippi and he was lights out in the Commodores 39-35 loss. He caught 10 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. He runs good routes and has good hands. He runs a 4.46 40-yard dash.

If there is one thing that you can’t measure in Matthew’s college statistics, you have to take a look at this guy’s heart. This was a kid who came out of high school in Madison, Ala with no major college offers and became the best receiver in the SEC. In fact, the only reason he got a scholarship was because another recruit backed out.

That only served to fuel his motivation during his years at Vanderbilt and that’s why being picked in the second round in the 2014 didn’t faze him.

“I think that edge was already with me coming out of high school. I think that was really the point where that chip really got on my shoulders. It wasn’t like I was being overlooked by some teams, I wasn’t wanted by anybody,” Matthews said. “I ended up where I needed to be.”

Matthews was also successful in the classroom at Vanderbilt.  He graduated with a degree in economics in three and half years.

Oddly enough, Matthews is the third cousin of Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice, who definitely knows something about being a long shot coming from a small school like Mississippi Valley State University. He said he’s learned a lot from the former San Francisco 49ers legend.

“He was definitely influential,” Matthews said. “I think one of the most influential things was watching him as a young child and growing up and being able to study his game and trying to apply some of those things to my game. He has given me some advice and I really appreciate that.”

 

Smith Not a Bad No. 1 Pick for the Eagles

9 May

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

The Eagles are hoping former Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith can rush the quarterback on a consistent basis.

The Eagles are hoping former Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith can rush the quarterback on a consistent basis.

PHILADELPHIA-With Eagles fans hoping that they would draft a wide receiver to replace DeSean Jackson, the Birds filled another much-needed position when they drafted outside linebacker Marcus Smith (6-foot-3, 251 pounds) out of Louisville in the first round.

After a trade with the Cleveland Browns that included an additional third-round pick, the Eagles traded out of the 22nd pick to get to the 26th pick when it became apparent that six of the players they were targeting were off the board by the time of their selection.

With Smith, the Eagles are getting a solid pass-rusher who was second in the nation in sacks with 12.5. He also had 16.5 tackles for loss during his senior at Louisville. He was named the American Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Not bad for a guy who was originally recruited to play  quarterback for Louisville.

The pick of Smith may not be the sexiest first-round selection  for the Birds considering their other needs. On the surface picking Smith, a second-team All-American, had many fans scratching their heads on Draft night.

That said, the Eagles did need a good pass rusher in their 3-4 scheme. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly likes Smith’s potential for the Eagles defense.

“(Smith) is a big kid, he’s transitioned to the outside linebacker position,” Kelly said. “I think he has a huge upside. He’s a very, very good athlete. He’s over 6-3. He’s in the 250-255 pound range. He ran a 4.68 40. He’s got speed coming off the edge. We thought adding a pass rusher was a big thing for us.

“He’s a young to bring in behind Trent (Cole) and Connor (Barwin). Those guys can show him the ropes. His ceiling is very, very high.”

Like last year’s No. 1 draft pick Lane Johnson, who also started his collegiate career as a quarterback, Smith said it took him a year to make that transition to playing defense and he’s gotten better with each year.

“I think what I’ve learned over the years, I’ve gotten better each year and this year I had an outbreak,” Smith said. “I feel like I can carry everything that I did this year to the NFL. I want to make an impact right away and I know the coaches they have in Philly will train me up and get me ready for the season coming up.”

Considering how the Eagles defense can go back and forth from being a 3-4 to a 4-3 team, Kelly believes Smith’s experience at Louisville playing defensive end and linebacker will help him get acclimated to the Eagles system.

“There is film of him playing defensive end and film of him playing as a standup outside linebacker. It’s not a projection like you do sometimes,” Kelly said. “Hey, let’s take this defensive end who may be a little undersized to be an NFL defensive end, but he has the skill set to be an outside linebacker. He’s actually played the position.”

With his size and athleticism, Smith will be expected to drop back in coverage in the passing game as well as rush the passer. He said he has experience in pass coverage as a linebacker during his time at Louisville.

“It was 50-50. I believe they dropped me 50-50 last year. Maybe not as much my junior year, but last year, they dropped me back more,” Smith said. “Going into the middle of the season I started rushing a lot more because they wanted me more involved getting to the quarterback. They wanted somebody to get to the quarterback. I was doing both so I would say 50 percent.”

If he can bring the same kind of wood to opposing receivers that he brings to quarterbacks, he has the potential to be the enforcer in the middle of the defense that this team has lacked for several years.
 

 

 

 

 

Game Plan Foundation Helps former NFL’ers Get Much Needed Help

20 Feb

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

As a player, Leonard Marshall led the New York Giants to Super Bowl titles.  In retirement,  Marshall is helping his retired brethren to enjoy life after football. Photo submitted by Angela Crockett Enterprises, Inc.

As a player, Leonard Marshall led the New York Giants to Super Bowl titles. In retirement, Marshall is helping his retired brethren to enjoy life after football. Photo submitted by Angela Crockett Enterprises, Inc.

During his playing days with the New York Giants, New York Jets and Washington Redskins, Leonard Marshall was one of the NFL’s best defensive lineman with a career that included a pair of Super Bowl rings and 83 sacks.

But when he hung up his jersey after 11 years in the game in 1994, Marshall began to notice that all was not well with some of his fellow ex-NFL players. Some were dealing with malingering pain from old injuries that led to addiction to painkillers. Others didn’t have jobs with the health insurance needed to help with their problems. Still others were dealing with serious short-term memory loss.

“Some of the players were divorced and didn’t have the education or skills to earn money,” Marshall said. “They found themselves in a situation where they couldn’t figure out ‘What’s my next step?”

As he talked with more players, this pattern of injury, addiction and memory loss became clearer, Marshall said.

But it was the  tragic death by suicide of former Philadelphia Eagles safety Andre Waters in 2006 that made Marshall take action. He and Waters had faced off more than once when he played with both the Giants and the Redskins, so the news hit close to home.

“That situation was terrible. That’s what grabbed my attention,” Marshall said. “It was a wake-up call.”

It was then that Marshall decided that it might be time for him to help his fellow retired brethren of the gridiron put together a Game Plan.

In 2008, Marshall formed the Game Plan Foundation to help former NFL’ers connect with the treatment they need. So far, the organization has raised $50,000 and has established partnerships with the medical facilities such as the Laser Spine Institute in Tampa, Fla., and Clifton, N.J.-based P.A.S.T (Pain Alternatives, Solutions Treatment), a medical group that treats former athletes.

Those  facilities provide former players without health insurance or savings the care they need for the physical and mental ailments brought on by the game free of charge.

“About 60 or 70 percent of former players aren’t employed and don’t have the skill set or the ability to function in a job or have a partner that has a job with health benefits,” Marshall said. “I want them to have options for their healthcare.”

The most prevalent ailment among retired players is the issue of chronic traumatic encephalopathy—or CTE. CTE is a degenerative brain condition caused by an abnormal build up of the protein tau, which strangles the brain cells in the areas that control memory, emotions and other functions. CTE, which doctors say is the result of head trauma, has been linked to dementia and depression.

CTE, which was first discovered by forensic pathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu when he did an autopsy of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall-of-Fame center Mike Webster. The suicides of San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau and former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, have been connected to CTE.

Marshall was diagnosed, along with former Dallas Cowboys Hall-of-Fame running back Tony Dorsett and offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure, with CTE last November after having a test done at UCLA.

This makes the struggle to help the NFL’s retirees  a personal one for Marshall.

“I deal with the signs associated with CTE every day,” Marshall said. “I would get in the car, knew where I was going before I left and then forget where I was going or why I was going and then go back home.”

Marshall said he copes with it by taking supplements, exercise and getting additional therapy with controlling his behavior from P.A.S.T., some of which involve him going through therapy that involves getting oxygen to his brain.

“I have to deal with making good decisions, but I’m still talking and writing. Trying to make things work for Leonard,” he said. “It’s a challenge.”

The reality of CTE is also a concern to current NFL players as well. San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said players are worried about the blows to the head that aren’t diagnosed as concussions.

“You have guys that are worried about the helmets they’re wearing or they’re thinking of the players who are suffering from brain injuries now,” Davis said. “It’s getting better, but guys are still worried about it.  …The thing I think about is do we get concussions even though we don’t have symptoms? How will that affect our health? We’re playing this contact sport and we’re getting concussions, but we’re not having the symptoms.”

Unlike now, where players that get their “bells rung” have to go through a concussion protocol before even thinking of returning to the field, head injuries were the last thing on the league’s mind when Marshall was in his prime, he said.

“They did not educate us on head trauma,” Marshall said. “It wasn’t a part of your annual physical. I never got one as a Jet, Giant or Redskin. That was not a part of the exam.”

During his annual press conference at the Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked by Davis if the league would be willing to give the players free health care for retired players.

This issue made the news recently when a federal judge held up a $765 million settlement of a class action lawsuit filed by more than 4,800 retired players against the NFL. The $765 million wasn’t enough money to help all of the players involved with their needs, Judge Anita Brody said.

Goodell said the league is always looking for ways to improve the health care for its former players. In 2007, the NFL instituted its 88-Plan, which provides retired players suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and ALS with $100,000 annually for long-term care and $88,000 for care at home.

But the NFL can’t make things safer alone. So in an attempt to minimize head trauma, the Game Plan Foundation is also teaching youngsters how to employ tackling techniques that don’t involve using the head.

“We’re trying to come up with new ways of training kids how to play tackle football-blocking and tackling,” Marshall said. “We also want to involve parents in the process of teaching kids how to play.”

One Last Post from Super Bowl XLVIII: Do Championships Define a Player’s Greatness?

4 Feb

Today’s Final Report from  Super Bowl XLVIII is powered by the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society

PBPRS image

by Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Russell Wilson reflects on Seattle's Super Bowl win. Photo by Chris Murray.

Russell Wilson reflects on Seattle’s Super Bowl win. Photo by Chris Murray.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—With the Seattle Seahawks 43-8  thrashing of  the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, the talk in social media, sports-talk radio and the various 24-hour cable sports networks has centered around the legacy of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

The current narrative among sports fans these days is that the more championship rings you have the greater you are as a player.  Of course, you will have someone saying the Manning’s greatness is now diminished because he didn’t get that second Super Bowl ring.

Of course, whenever I am in these discussions on social media or even sports-talk radio, I often point out the absolute silliness of that notion in team sports because it takes more than one player to win.

Pointing out to sports fans that it takes teams to win a championship is the equivalent of your mother telling you to eat your nasty-tasting vegetables because it’s good for you.

I think the popularity of this notion in the current era comes from one Michael Jordan who helped to lead the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships. Never mind that he had help from teammates like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, Jordan is the face of those championships.

That mindset has invaded the ultimate team sport that is football and this is the stuff you see in the ongoing vilification of Manning after losing to Seattle.  The former Tennessee star has one Super Bowl ring, but it’s never enough for the limited, narrow scope of fans who are bedazzled by the glow of the ring or the trophy.

What they often fail to understand or maybe they don’t want to understand is the collective effort that it takes to get to win that championship.

There are a lot of great players in football who never won or even played in a championship game. Yet, in the eyes of various sports media types, the jockocracy, and fans, not winning a title somehow takes away from a player’s greatness.

During this past Super Bowl Week, I asked some prominent members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame if it was fair to tie a player’s greatness to the amount of championship rings he has or the  lack thereof.

“I would have to say that it is because that’s what this game is,” said Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, who helped lead the Cowboys to three Super Bowl crowns during the 1990s. “I don’t care how great you play individually if you can’t get others to play great we gotta to measure you on that. We can’t call this the ultimate team sport, but give you accolades for individual success.”

Then I asked Irvin what about guys like Dan Marino, Don Fouts or Barry Sanders? Those guys were Hall-of-Fame players who never won a championship. Surely their greatness is not diminished by their lack of rings, right?

“A Tom Brady couldn’t play defense, but can Tom Brady get a little more out of the guys that are playing defense? Is Tom Brady reaching and associating with guys in a way that brings more out of them?” Irvin asked rhetorically.

“So when we say hand the ball off to the ref like Barry Sanders. Barry Sanders never spiked the ball or acted crazy. Maybe he should have because maybe it would have gotten the defense fired up and maybe they would have gone out and made some plays.”

Cris Carter, a 2013 Hall of Fame inductee and an outstanding receiver for the Minnesota Vikings would beg to differ with Irvin on that one. He said the notion of a great career being diminished because of lack of a Super Bowl ring is something created by the media.

“When you play certain positions you don’t have that much of an impact on who’s gonna win or lose the game,” Carter said. “Ninety-seven percent of players that play in the NFL don’t even play in a Super Bowl, 97 percent. So to think that you have to win a Super Bowl to be in the Hall of Fame wouldn’t be fair.”

Carter said it’s easy for Irvin to say championships define greatness because he played on a Cowboys team that had Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Larry Allen—all of whom are Hall of Famers.

Former New England Patriots linebacker and ESPN football analyst Tedy Bruschi was a part of three Super Bowl winners. I thought he would share Irvin’s sentiment, but he didn’t.

“Championships define greatness of teams that’s the way it is,” Bruschi said. “I don’t need Cris Carter to have a championship ring to know how great he is.  He’s one of the greatest of all time.”

As fans we have a weird kind of Drum Major Instinct when it comes to our athletes because we all like the glitz and the glamour of the guy who stands out in the crowd. In football and for that matter any sport, the guy who stands out does so because he stands on the shoulders of his teammates who are holding him up.

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